Six Months Later…

We’ve Done It!

Portal

“But it doesn’t go anywhere!” “Not exactly, Minerva. Unless I’m very much mistaken, it goes everywhere”

As Harry Dean Stanton said, “the life of a repo man is always intense”* and the last six months have certainly been intense for Infinite Crypt. The challenge of making and distributing a new product is not to be underestimated. Particularly when you have a another job as well!

Nonetheless, thanks to incredible support from family and friends, we’ve done it! Our Kickstarter responsibilities have been fulfilled and we’ve set up Bill & Ted, our lasers, in a new workshop in Portland Works, one of the coolest, most historically significant industrial spaces in England.

We’ve bought two laser cutters, designed 53 types of Infinite Crypt element, produced more than 6000 individual elements, made 90 pigeonholes to help with handling and packing, spent over £1200 on postage & packing, and sent Infinite Crypt elements to 15 countries, as far West as California and as far East as Japan.

We’ve learned an incredible amount. Things that neither I, nor the Infinite Crypt production gnomes knew enough about when this started include:

  • Fume Extraction, Venting & Chimneys
  • Mass Production
  • Packing & Fulfilment
  • Online Payment Mechanisms
  • Web Shops

I probably still don’t know enough about these things – but now at least we’ve mapped the territory. The main insight that comes out of this is that different issues emerge at different scales. Something that’s a non-issue for one, or six, or even sixteen items (how long does it take to unpick the end of a roll of tape?) becomes a major issue when you’re repeating a process six thousand times.

What’s The Result?

Frankly, we’ve been blown away by the generous responses from our backers! The @InfiniteCrypt Twitter stream has started to become populated by pictures of Infinite Crypt builds, and now, the elements in action. We’ve also had some insightful and quotable comments:

“What fun I’ve had assembling a few elements every night the past few days! Finely engineered little puzzles! High quality and great fit… I will order more once the store goes online. Thank you for one of my best KS experiences yet!” ~ Arzach, May 29th

“Loving this. I’ve had hours of fun building bits. Thanks for the extras too. Putting the bits together I’ve had ideas for two further elements” ~ Les Fulbrook, April 27th

A key question for us was whether to delay the mailout, and write comprehensive instructions for each element, or whether to provide general instructions that suggest the correct approach to figure out each element yourself. (Plus the offer of online advice, of course!) We opted for the “don’t delay” option, and feedback seems to suggest we got this right:

“I received my pieces last week, and I’m very happy with them. I’ve been building them a bit at a time each night with my 10 and 7 year old… as we are putting them together, it’s actually more fun to figure out how they fit together than to follow instructions. Thanks for the great product!” ~ Ben Gatien, May 5th

The puzzle-like quality which we wanted to build into Infinite Crypt seems to add to the value! Everyone seems to have made it work, and had fun in the process!

So What’s Next?

We always said that our Kickstarter would be the springboard to making Infinite Crypt elements more widely available. And, “Lo!”, it has come to pass.

We’ve been beavering away, setting up an online shop, and we reckon that this post is the lowest key possible soft launch. (Did you miss that?) Of course, we’ll be making it more prominent and shouting about it more very soon.

Now we’re thinking hard about new elements. We’ve kept the element cost as low as possible, but we’d like to work out how to resource design time for new elements. While a popular element (like a corner or a wall section) will pay for its own design over time, specialist elements add character, but you’ll only want one or two of them in any one dungeon. We want to make sure that our income model encourages us to develop a wide range of elements, not just concentrate on the most popular designs.

We’ve even thought about subscription – but that brings up more complexities. Wait a moment… doesn’t this suggest that maybe we should do… a Kickstarter campaign?


* Bud, Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984)

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Now The Work Starts

We launched our 30-day Kickstarter on October 9th, and it successfully concluded on November 8th, raising £10,813 of our £6000 goal! To all our backers, a massive THANK YOU for your enthusiasm for Infinite Crypt and for trusting us to deliver!

Hat tips are also due to the writers, bloggers, reviewers and advocates that helped to get the word out – you put a little bit of your credibility on the line to feature a product that’s not yet in production. Noted. Thanks!

"We must explore this area befoe it gets dark!"

This means that Infinite Crypt will move from being “a cool idea and a bunch of prototypes” to being a widely available product. But it won’t get there on its own!

Now, the work starts. Here’s just a short version of what we have on the agenda – which, I should note, won’t necessarily happen in exactly this order. You’ll see that there are some items which it would be beneficial to accelerate, if we possibly can.

  • Survey backers to receive their provisional set and element selections
  • Prepare premises – including ventilation, worksurfaces, storage etc.
  • Order & install first laser cutter.
  • Set up an Infinite Crypt PayPal account (or other payment processing back-end).
  • Set up an interface to receive payments from backers who expressed interest but were unable to meet the Kickstarter deadline.
  • Work with our “Underworld Architect” backers to design new elements
  • Design popular new elements requested by other backers
  • Set up a comprehensive gallery of elements old and new on infinitecrypt.com
  • Set up a definitive database of elements, with regularised naming conventions and serial numbers.
  • Contact backers again and ask them whether they’d like to modify their selections, now they can see the new elements available.
  • Purchase materials.
  • Order & install a second laser cutter if, or as soon as, our budgeting allows us to do so – but don’t delay the next step…
  • Start Production
  • Iterate production for batches of backers.
  • Develop assembly instructions.
  • Design packaging & purchase packaging materials.
  • Pack orders in batches.
  • Start shipping
  • Set up an online shop
  • Start receiving new orders
  • Resolve queries & glitches (Let’s face it, this is going to happen!)
  • Conclude Shipping to Backers
  • Start production and shipping for new customers
  • Rework infinitecrypt.com website
  • Set up infinitecrypt.com chat forum
  • Seek additional distribution options
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Our Kickstarter is Underway!

Crikey! We never realised the sheer level of preparation required to build a Kickstarter. Late nights, tricky maths, endless re-writes, and a million-and-one tiny details that we almost overlooked. And quite a few that we have.

You know what we should have done? We should have written a launch announcement for this site BEFORE we launched. So we could press the button on Kickstarter, AND press the button here. But what the hell… at least here you get authenticity.

Infinite Crypt

To Launch, Or Not to Launch…

I guess we’ve been going through the same thing that any number of Kickstarter  creators experience… We’ve kept on asking ourselves “Is Infinite Crypt perfect? Shall we postpone?”

Of course not! It never will be perfect – but (though we say so ourselves) it is great! We just hope that we can get this across in our campaign. It doesn’t represent the ultimate expression of all our ideas, it represents “the state of our art right now”. As we develop new designs, a wider range, and our production capacity, it’ll get even better.

We’ve gone ahead and pressed the button, and we’re waiting with baited breath to discover whether Infinite Crypt will attract the backing that’ll make the project fly. How about helping? Check it out here:

Infinite Crypt – Modular Terrain for Underworld Architects

Face The Fear & Do It Anyway

As we’ve developed the product, loads of times we’ve looked at our little doorways, walls and corners, and wondered, “Are we crazy”? But the positive feedback we’ve had from people who’ve actually handled the elements has kept us at it.

A week or so ago, we were considering postponing until Halloween. Or later. Would we ever be ready? Rob’s enthusiasm prevailed. We decided to push forward as quickly as we reasonably could. “Keep the momentum going” he said, “Have faith in our tiny stairways, and other people will see the fun that we have with them, too!”

At other times during the development process we’ve been confident. Quite unexpectedly, Lisa’s Infinite Crypt photo sessions have been a blast. Her photos have turned out beautifully, and without any intent we developed whole storylines around the two miniatures we used for scale, “Blue Wizard” and his mysterious female associate. As their story developed, we experienced that we’d created an incredibly evocative, imaginative game accessory for ourselves – so why not for other people?

Last weekend, after we’d hesitatingly determined our launch date, I decided to call in at my local independent games store, Patriot Games to look out a copy of 13th Age. And (after clambering around the window display to get my hands on the penultimate copy) there was @Tollboothmusic.

A few weeks ago he’d expressed an interest in seeing the elements and writing a review for his blog, Card And Pixel. We’d missed each other previously. He’d come up with the lamentably trivial excuse, “I’m getting married” to explain his unavailability, but despite this, he made time to write a brief preview on his site. What a nice man!

And here he was in the flesh, and with his charming wife! (I was going to say “charming new wife” but that’d make it sound as if he gets replacements on a regular basis.) Fortunately I had some freshly cut prototypes with me, so I proceeded to give them an impromptu demo. Thanks for the loan of your counter-top, Justin!

Here is Infinite Crypt – A Chance Meeting which is his write-up of that random encounter. His very spontaneous, enthusiastic response was, for me, the final confirmation that we should delay no longer.

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Spreading The Word

eh_20130905_204510

It’s been just eight weeks since we set up this blog, and around six weeks since we showed the first photos of Infinite Crypt prototypes to the world. We’ve been blown away by the interest we’ve had from the gaming community. We’ve had engagement from bloggers and reviewers and (we hope) the first wave of Infinite Crypt customers.

What We’ve Been Doing…

  • The number one request we’ve had is for more pictures so we’ve made a Flickr Gallery.
  • This is always going to be a bit behind the times, so to get more pictures (but lower quality – sorry) then check out the photos on our Twitter feed.
  • We’ve also started a FaceBook Page to explain more about what we do.

What You’ve Been Doing…

We’ve had fabulously positive interest from bloggers and reviewers. Thanks guys! So far these articles have been published:

We’ve had more interest, too – but those interviews aren’t online yet. We like to talk – so if you’d like to discuss IC with us, drop us a line info [at] infinitecrypt [dot] com or tweet us @InfiniteCrypt. We’ve had amazing engagement on social media – particularly Twitter. In the last few weeks we’ve picked up more than 800 followers.

What You Can Do…

Please, help us spread the word! To make Infinite Crypt happen, we’re looking for £6000 – that’s 60 backers who put their hands in their pockets and pitch in an average of £100 to get their hands on Infinite Crypt.

We’re not an established company with an exiting customer base – and we don’t have a handy marketing department – so we need your help.

  • If you like what we’re doing, tell us, and tell your friends!
  • If you use Twitter, follow @InfiniteCrypt and retweet stuff you like!
  • Ask questions, make suggestions! We like to talk.
  • Infinite Crypt is on Facebook If you’re on Facebook, how about a “like”?

Figuring that 1 in 50 of our Twitter followers will actually back Infinite Crypt with £100, we still only have quarter of the number of backers we need. That’s a great base to start from, but we still need more!

If we overshoot our target, and break through to £12000 – double our feasibility threshold – then we’ll be able to run two lasers in parallel, and reduce the cost per element significantly. Our stretch goals are designed to drive the price down for everyone – big and small backers alike, by providing bonus elements for all.

At this stage our core focus has to be on affordability – and that means scaling up production. A lower unit cost will mean you’ll be able to afford loads of Infinite Crypt elements, with potential to build huge complexes, massive temples, giant fortresses… As a GM or a referee, your setups Infinite Crypt will blow your players’ minds. Let’s make it happen!

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Let’s Talk About Design

Infinite Crypt stairway to the next level..

Stairway to the next level…

You may think that here at Infinite Crypt we just make whatever we feel like. Of course we do, but we have some rules. Here are five approaches that we’ve been sticking with:

  1. Shape. There are many fine terrain products on the market – what makes ours different is that Infinite Crypt is about shape, not surface detail. We aim for each element to be a mini-sculpture, with structural architectural features. The joints themselves contribute to the look.
  2. Resolution. To keep a consistent feel we only use 3mm material for our designs. This gives us a maximum level of detail – you can add more if you like. We like the stylised character of the elements, which will make your beautiful miniatures really stand out. Your characters should be the centre of attention in a game session.
  3. Neutrality. Most Infinite Crypt elements are appropriate for many genres. They could be a dungeon, a temple, a castle, a bunker, a spacecraft. This gives the elements maximum value and leaves the fine details to your imagination. Now you have options: leave the pieces unpainted; spray them with a neutral palette or paint each one with genre-specific customisations.
  4. Puzzles. The pieces in Infinite Crypt flat-packs interlock like little jigsaw puzzles. Making the elements has to be fun – the pieces click together in a satisfying, unambiguous way, and (wherever possible) hold together without glue – though we recommend a dab of white glue to make joints permanent. Some of the more complex pieces, like hinged doors, need glue. We’ll supply instructions – even the most complex pieces only take a few minutes to construct.
  5. Modularity. We keep each element in a 1″ x 2″ x 2″ form factor  so they pack away neatly into storage boxes. You get two smaller “0.5 unit” items (like columns and barrels) in a pack. Corners and some walls, which take up three 1″ x 1″ x 2″ spaces are 1.5 unit items. In all cases they’ll fit perfectly into our storage trays.
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Infinite Crypt – The First 20 Elements

Infinite Crypt Hall of Pillars

Find the intruders and deal with them!

At last we’ve finalised and optimised designs for the first 20 Infinite Crypt elements. Here’s the complete listing:

Treasure Chest; Stairway (5′ wide, up 1 level); 2 Utility Stairways (5′ wide, up 0.5 levels); Ceremonial Stairway (10′ wide, up 0.5 levels); Buttressed Wall (buttresses at 10′); Palatial Wall (buttresses at 5′ intervals); Plain Wall (a no-nonsense titanic block – also can be used horizontally as a dais or construction element); Corner (buttressed, compatible with all wall sections); Door (hinged, arched, with a barred view port); Archway (quite impressive!) ; Arrowslit (with handy firing alcove); Portcullis (with positionable gate to slam down when appropriate); 2 Plain Pillars (can also be used as a construction element, horizontally or vertically); 2 Square Columns (with capitals); 2 Fluted Columns (palatial quality); Altar (equally ideal for sacred rituals or sacrificial victims); Evil Idol (every cult needs one); Secret Door (completely invisible from one side); Tomb (suitable for hero, vampire, or even suspended animation purposes); Throne of Evil (substantial stone, skull motif).

Immediately some other elements are implied. Very shortly we’ll have a Window (just like an Arrowslit, but bigger); an Alcove (like a window… with no window!) various additional styles of Corner (including “T” shapes and “+” shapes) and a bunch of different door styles – I like the sound of Plain Door, Cage Door and Reinforced Door.

For dungeon denizens’ comfort and convenience, we think that a Fireplace and a Well are pretty essential, some Barrels could come in handy, and some Pallets or Bunks for furnishing low-level monstrous barracks seem a nice touch. (We’re particularly interested to see whether adventurers press these into service as cover, barricades and makeshift ladders.) Grander Beds for more senior monsters are definitely indicated.

What do your monsters need?

So where do we go from here? Initially we’d like to stay focused on the old-school, underground realm of the classic dungeon before venturing above ground.

Are your monsters in need of Shrines? Bridges? Traps? Barricades? Do they feel most comfortable in fields of Debris?

Are they generally poor housekeepers? If so, then perhaps we need to produce Rubble, Broken Pillars and Broken Walls. Would your evil temple be enhanced by a Font of Evil or a Mausoleum? Would portentous or magical locations, such as an extra-large Gateway or a Mysterious Pool be of interest?

Are your monsters of a more intellectual bent? If so they may need a Lectern, Bookshelves or items to equip a laboratory. Statues are always handy – both for commemorative and villainous self-aggrandisement purposes, and they may actually be animated stone golems – which should add to intruders’ dismay.

We’d love to hear your suggestions for new Infinite Crypt elements. If it’s feasible, maybe one of our Kickstarter rewards can be to work with our larger backers to design custom pieces!

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It’s All About Optimisation

Yorkshire folk are famed for their thrift – and we’ve taken this to heart with our approach to Infinite Crypt pricing. We want to make sure that the prices areas low as they can be for a quality product.

So we’ve been reviewing Infinite Crypt designs. In particular, we’ve been looking at something which gamers shouldn’t need to care about – the exact way that the pieces are laid out on the cut files, ready to be laser cut.

Why does this matter? For two key reasons: production and postage. The more neatly the parts are laid out, the faster the laser can cut. Faster speeds mean lower production time and less wasted material.

We’ll be distributing Infinite Crypt by post – so the less packing material we need to keep the important parts secure when we post them out to you, the lower the postage cost. So optimised design means faster production, and lower materials and postage costs. Which of course, we’ll translate into lower prices!

laser_eh_cr_IMAG3286Which Laser Cutter?

As well as optimising the cut files, we’re researching which combination of laser cutters will give the lowest production times for each given level of investment. Would it be more effective to buy two entry level, home user lasers (which will cut in smaller batches) or one mid-range production laser? If our funding target is exceeded, should we buy one high-end production laser, or two mid-range units?

Our friends at Pimoroni have bought high-end production lasers. But, while a larger cutting bed reduces the labour involved in reloading the machine, it seems that more powerful laser tubes may not help with Infinite Crypt production. For Infinite Crypt’s materials, multiple cuts at low power are the way to maintain precision and minimise scorch marks. With the mid-range production laser I’ve been using to make the prototypes, I’ve set the power level at just 30%. Higher power tubes simply won’t help.

Our Kickstarter Goals

We’ll need to spend just over £4000 on the laser for this job, so, bearing in mind the costs of postage, materials, and the production space, it looks like our Kickstarter goal must be a minimum of £6000. Our first stretch goal will be at £8500, when we’ll buy a slightly larger laser to finish the job quicker, and we hope to offer everyone bonus pieces.

If we raise £12000 – which is double our feasibility threshold, we know we’ll be able to run two, identical mid-range production lasers in parallel. This is when volume production will really start to drive down production cost significantly. At that stage we’ll look to increase rewards for all our backers.

We’re also going to look at some unique rewards for bigger backers – we’d like to work with them to design some unique pieces and feature their ideas in our dungeon architecture.

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Preparing for a Kickstarter Video

I had a great meeting yesterday with local video maker Russell Cavanagh. He’s agreed to make the Infinite Crypt Kickstarter video. Thanks, Russell!

Meanwhile, we have to work like crazy at iCrypt Towers to get all of the pieces we want to show you assembled and painted (we’ll show you unpainted ones, too). And there are continuing requests for new pieces to include in the basic set.

In the video we plan to show you:

  • Cool scenes made with the pieces.
  • How the pieces pack away neatly, for easy transport & storage.
  • The pieces in play, with figures.

We also want to get something across about the feel of the pieces – but how do we do this in a video? They’re really substantial – not in any way flimsy – and they have a good weight to them. Unlike cardboard or vacuum-formed plastic, they aren’t going to tip over in a gust of wind. If we can persuade some of our local Games Group to talk to the camera, we’ll get some responses from players.

Our ultimate ambition (but hey, this may not be feasible) is to film in a historic location nearby. Something with some serious stonework… and maybe a drawbridge? Okay, so maybe that’d be a bit over-the-top. We’ll see what we can do.

If you’re an RPG player and you’d like to take part in the video, then, please, get in touch. Hmmm… Seems to me as if my next step could be contacting the several independent games shops in Sheffield. I can feel some demos coming on.

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Infinite Crypt is… Go!

Last year I got access to a laser cutter, thanks to a new project at the Access Space hacklab. At Access Space I help people to learn about technology, and part of my role has become to train and support people to use the laser cutter. In a previous life I freelanced as a graphic designer, so I got to grips with the software & design process pretty quickly.  Helping dozens of people with different production projects has given me a great overview of the production process – materials selection, optimising cut times, minimising burn marks and tuning the laser’s speed and power.

After some experimentation, I started to develop the product that I always wanted. It’s modular architectural terrain for miniatures gaming – both roleplaying games (like D&D) and tactical wargames (like 40K).

What I’ve been aiming at are classic designs – they could be fantasy medieval, they could be ancient, they could be scifi. I’m also looking for robustness (these pieces should last a lifetime) and flexibility – they should be compatible with other modular terrain systems.

It’s based on standardised 1″ squares for 25-28mm figures (non-gamers: feel free to freak out at our mixing the metric and imperial systems) and it’s reconfigurable into any number of interior locations, to create rooms & corridors that you can imagine as an ancient catacomb, a medieval dungeon or an underground bunker.

I’ve been gaming since the ’70s (yes, I’m that old) and I’ve never found the exact terrain product I wanted. So now I’m making it myself. I’ve already developed 20 core designs and it’s just about ready to go into production.

That’s where Kickstarter comes in. To produce Infinite Crypt in quantity will take hundreds of hours of production time – so I’m looking to raise enough funds for a production laser, so that Infinite Crypt can bring classic, affordable terrain pieces to everyone!

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